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Serious Play

Play has been on my mind for some time.

When studying dance at university, we were guided to engage in 'serious play' as we improvised around ideas to create movement phrases. It involved being open to unexpected moments that come from moving with others and our own responses to ideas and stimuli. It offers a deep engagement with the process of exploration and creating that can lead to the experience of flow. Someone once described the feeling as being like flowing through honey, a most delicious feeling.

Recently I came across the author Johann Hari and his latest book Stolen Focus. The last chapter most strongly captured my interest as it explores the role of play on how we learn attention. It is fascinating to read the findings of numerous researchers in this field that show our brains function better when we learn through play and that our creativity and ability to problem solve is nurtured through play. You can discover what intrinsically motivates you and learn how to interact with others when you play. Play can be regarded as frivolous by some but reading Hari's book brought home its importance to the development of human beings.

Montessori's approach to learning suggests that there is no distinction between play and work for the child. If the activity is self chosen and meaningful to the child, it can offer an immersive experience that leads to flow. An article by Laura Flores Shores titled Montessori and Play explores this theme further and it made me wonder whether children who experience flow and sustained attention in work go on to choose professions and ways of living that offer them this experience.

There are many ways to experience flow and sustained attention. Dancing was one way I experienced it. I feel that thick, honey, delicious feeling and a great sense of freedom when I dance.

When do you experience flow? What does play mean to you?

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Apr 18, 2022

The older we get, the more focussed our lives become, I think the harder it is to remember how to play freely. Our adult ideas of play might be a specific task (playing volleyball) or event (playing Monopoly). Most times we are probably playing to win. Our idea of play might be relegated to certain, very specific activities. Thanks for this reminder, Kei!

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts on play, Rebecca. Indeed free play is so important and yet we tend toward structured activities for both children and adults. I hope you can continue to experience play in your life.

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